Today’s Israeli airstrike that killed (at least) 56 people, half of them children, seems to be causing some, um, re-evaluation. Condi Rice has cancelled a trip to Beirut, for example. She was going to talk to Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora about “steps” to a cease fire. It seems Prime Minister Siniora told Condi she was not welcome and could take her steps and shove ’em where the sun don’t shine.
The plan had been for Rice to leave for Beirut in an hour to meet with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora to discuss steps toward a ceasefire. Now, that trip would be cancelled. She had talked to Siniora, whom she described as â€œdepressedâ€ and â€œemotionalâ€ over what happened in the village of Qana. Rice said, â€œI called him and told him that I was not coming today because I felt very strongly that my work toard a ceasefire is really here, today.â€ Siniora, however, had made it clear in a televised address that her trip would have been pointless. He declared he would not engage in any more negotiations until a ceasefire was in place.
… the Lebanese government (of which Shrub was so paternally proud just a few short weeks ago) has just told Madame Supertanker to go take a flying you-know-what at the moon:
Lebanon told U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Sunday that it could not meet with her before a ceasefire ends a 19-day-old Israeli offensive, Lebanese officials said. The officials said Rice, who was due in Beirut later on Sunday, was informed of the Lebanese position after an Israeli airstrike killed more than 40 civilians in south Lebanon.
And the Kofi Annan has called an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council, at which a resolution calling for an immediate cease fire no doubt will be offered, forcing the United States to veto it — thus officially going on record all by its lonesome in favor of large and horrific massacres.
Israeli war planes scored a direct hit on a building in the Shiite village of Qana where destitute farming folk, including old people, women and children, had taken refuge in the basement from Israeli bombing raids. At least 54 are dead, as bodies are pulled from the rubble. 19 children are confirmed dead and another 11 are thought still to be in the basement. The Israelis say they had pamphleted the region demanding that all civilians leave, and high Israeli officials have openly said that anyone who remains is fair game (low civilianity index, and maybe low humanianity index, too). The Israelis don’t say, however, how desperately poor hardscrabble farmers including the aged and infirm and children are supposed to travel to Beirut over the roads and bridges that the Israelis have bombed out, and on what they are supposed to live when they get there.
The Israelis had launched 80 air raids on the village of Qana overnight, with large numbers of buildings flattened, according to CNN.
I boldfaced the part about aged and infirm and children with no way out, because according to Victor Davis Hanson these people wanted to be bombed. I suspect otherwise. A number of trolls have dropped by here today saying that Israel has been oh, so careful not to hurt civilians, and those who remain in areas they’d been warned to vacate have only themselves to blame if they get killed. But every news story I’ve seen about Lebanon in print and electronic media has noted that infrastructure — roads, bridges, airports — have been destroyed, and people are having a hell of a time getting anywhere.
Israel said residents in Qana and the region had been warned several days in advance to leave the village.
Today, Mr. Siniora said Qanaâ€™s residents were not warned. He described a scene in the region illustrating the difficulties for civilian evacuations, saying the Israeli strikes had cut â€œthe whole country into pieces,â€ destroyed bridges and blanketed the village with 50 airstrikes at night. …
… â€œWhat we have really been witnessing is something beyond description. And this is something that is unacceptable, and thatâ€™s why we are asking for an immediate and unconditional cease-fire,â€ he said.
â€œWe cannot continue discussing under the sort of blood that is being put on our necks,â€ Mr. Siniora added.
How did the White House respond, by the way?
Responding to the strikes on Qana, the White House urged Israel today to take more care to avoid civilian casualties in Lebanon. It said that Ms. Rice was working to arrange the conditions for a â€œsustainableâ€ halt to the violence.
Yeah, that’s tellin’ ’em.
And now, back to Travels With Condi —
Rice and her team had already been working with the knowledge that Israel was not going to cease its attacks soon. The night before, she had had dinner with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who told her that Israel needed 10 days to two weeks to complete its military operations. The attack on Qana â€” apparently the site of rocket launches against Israel â€” occured shortly after midnight.
On Sunday, a few hours after Riceâ€™s press conference, more bad news arrived when U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan announced that the Israeli Defense Ministry had asked U.N. peacekeeping forces in Lebanon to evacuate two more villages before sunset, suggesting they would meet Qanaâ€™s fate. By Sunday evening, Rice had apparently decided that she had done all she could do in Jerusalem and made it known she was heading back to Washington Monday morning.
Via Talking Points Memo, we learn that Siniora has expressed “gratitude” to Hezbollah and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah. This reveals, seems to me, that Hezbollah’s political position in Lebanon has been strengthened by Israeli bombs.
In other developments, the bombing at Qana caused King Abdullah II of Jordan to condemn Israel’s “criminal aggression.”
Abdullah condemned “the ugly crime perpetrated by Israeli forces in Qana, which led to the killing of innocent civilians, including a large number of children and women,” said a statement released by the king’s press office.
“This criminal aggression constitutes a blatant violation of the law and all international conventions,” the king said.
Abdullah repeated his call for an “immediate cease-fire.”
This is significant, because Jordan’s King Abdullah is possibly the most pro-western ruler in the Middle East. My understanding is that he has closer ties to the U.S. than he does to Syria and Iran. Jordan signed a peace agreement with Israel back in 1994, and has kept that agreement. But the King has a Palestinian problem of his own. About half of the population of Jordan are Palestinians. Many of these Palestinians are refugees (or children of refugees) from earlier Palestinian-Israeli conflicts. The King of Jordan does not want more Palestinian refugees, because a Palestinian majority could lead to the overthrow of his rule. Nor does the King want Palestinians already living in Jordan to decide he is an enemy of the Palestinians. If forced to choose sides between Israel and Lebanon, I ‘spect the King would choose Lebanon. And it may become hard for him to remain too openly friendly with the United States as well.
Conclusion: War is stupid.
I called this post “Taking Sides” because it shows how extreme actions can force people to take sides they’d rather not take. Right now, the entire world, including Britain, is lining up on one side, and the U.S. and Israel are on the other side. This ought to be making us nervous.
A number of the trolls commenting on yesterday’s “wankers” post have jumped to the conclusion that this blogger is pro-Hezbollah, which is extremely far off the mark. Simple-minded people think there are just two sides to every issue, and if you are not on this side you must be on that one. But there are other sides they don’t see.
Beside the fact that it breaks my heart to see Lebanon being torn apart, my sympathies are with the children, the families, the noncombatants, of all nations, religions, and ethnicities who are being slaughtered and traumatized by Israeli bombs and Hezbollah rockets. My antipathies are against everyone who is making and supporting war, especially war going beyond what is needed for self-defense — again, of all nations, religions and ethnicities.